Community Foundation to honor Joe and Cecily Higgins, 2018 scholarship recipients


Joseph and Cecily Higgins will be honored as the 2018 Friends of the Foundation, CRCF’s most prestigious award. Photo by Danny Bush.

The best of friends are the ones that remain a constant over the test of time.

Joseph and Cecily Higgins have long been exactly those kind of friends to the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.

From the days when the Foundation was little more than an idea to make the Allegheny River Trail possible, the Higginses were there and ready to make it a reality, to the present where the two have established a major scholarship fund.

The Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation will honor the Higginses for their long-standing support and advocacy by naming them the 2018 Friends of the Foundation honorees at the Friends of the Foundation Luncheon on July 19 at Good times of Olean.

CRCF’s Friend of the Foundation Award is the organization’s most prestigious. It honors a person or persons who have established a fund or funds there and given generously and consistently over the years; an individual who has donated generously to existing funds; and/or someone who continues the Foundation’s mission through giving and volunteerism.

Together, the couple established the Joseph and Cecily Higgins Scholarships at the Foundation, a multi-year scholarship that supports Allegany-Limestone Central School and Archbishop Walsh Academy graduates pursing a degree in a STEM-related field.

The endowed fund will perpetually support four $2500 scholarships each year.

Joe is a charter CRCF board member and was instrumental in the formation of a Community Foundation for the Cattaraugus region. Because of his early leadership, he is also an honorary board member.

Joe Higgins at the opening ceremony for the Allegheny River Valley Trail

Joe spearheaded the construction of the Allegheny River Valley Trail, without which the Foundation may not have come into being.

Joe saw the early benefits of having a Community Foundation to manage funds in the greater-Olean area. The Allegheny River Trail Fund was the Foundation’s very first fund, allowing people to make tax-deductible contributions to support the building of the 5.6 mile trail.

“Joe Higgins was instrumental in helping to establish the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation because of his leadership for the Allegheny Valley River Trail,” said Carol Stitt, who served as the Foundation’s first executive director.  “Joe was a board member for nine years and is now an honorary board member. He and Cecily have always been advocates and supporters of CRCF.”

Joe, the former owner of Abbot Welding Supply (now Airgas) and two-time past president of the local chapter of The American Welding society, remains a dedicated community servant. He continues to lead the Allegheny River Valley Trail.

He is the first vice chairmen of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency board. He is an active member of the Olean Rotary Club as well.

Formerly, he was president of the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce and the Allegany school board. He was also a member of the Ski Wing ski patrol, HoliMont board of directors and Cuba Lake District board of commissioners.

Cecily worked as an RN in the OR, ER, ICU and doctors’ offices in Chicago (Illinois), New York City, New Jersey, Media (PA) and Buffalo at Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Erie County Public Health.

Upon arrival in Olean in 1975, Cecily studied accounting at St. Bonaventure University to help in accounting at Abbott Welding Supply.

A champion for the community as well, she was a member of the Welcome Wagon, which helped welcome new families to the Greater Olean area while also being involved in the Allegany High School PTA, Ski Wing Ski Club and ski swaps and Enchanted Mountains Garden Club.

Cecily also is an avid reader and an active member of two book clubs.

Together, Joe and Cecily generously support many community organizations with both time and money, including Canticle Farm, Olean General Hospital, the Cattaraugus County Arts Council, Pfeiffer Nature Center and the YMCA of the Twin Tiers, just to name a few.

Both are actively involved in demonstrating the value of whole-food, plant-based diets and exercise.

Joe and Cecily enjoy walking, skiing, fishing and playing tennis. They are also active members of the Cattaraugus County Bird Club.

Joe and Cecily have three children (Mike, Karen and Bryan) and eight grandchildren (Elizabeth, Kathryn, Ryan, Abigail, Megan, Emily, Ryan and Frances).

Their son, Mike, has followed in Joe’s footsteps and currently serves as a member of the CRCF board of directors.

“This community is so blessed to have people like Joe and Cecily, who give so much to the community and teach their children and grandchildren to do the same,” said CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit. “The Foundation quite literally may not have been founded without efforts from Joe and Cecily, which makes it all the more special to honor them as this year’s Friends of the Foundation honorees.”

The Foundation will also honor 79 scholarship recipients who together received over 98 awards and over $130,000.

Established in 1994, the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email, or visit online at CRCF is also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CattFoundation).

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